Welcome to the Freedom Fridays Project podcast. I'm Pete Clark, your host, the Whispers Guy. It appears that work expands to the time that we give it and I started to explore how I was investing my time and effort, particularly on Fridays. It's evolved to an exploration and experiment with time, energy, attention and identity and a mindset shift from I have to, to I choose to. So if you're interested in exploring some changes to the way that you invest your time and energy, if you'd like some tips on the way as you make some changes, perhaps to your identity, if you would like the freedom of I choose to, away from I have to, then this is the podcast for you. So welcome to the Freedom Fridays Project podcast.
Welcome to this week's episode of the Freedom Fridays podcast, Episode 38, which is part two of the conversation I had with a friend, colleague and all round awesome facilitator, Marcus Crow. The second part of our conversation deals a little bit more with clients and leaders and their teams and any early warning signals to the success or failure of any change initiatives. Enjoy the conversation for the Freedom Fridays podcast. I'm keen for your insights, when you are working with clients, prospective clients and continuing clients, are there any early warning signals for you that hint as to whether they're going to, I don't mean comply with what you're telling them, but at least be willing to lean into some of the things that you suggest or not? Are there any early warning signals that give you a hint one way or the other?
You mean that they're going to embrace whatever?
Yes, or at least a degree of what you're suggesting, because you've seen it across three sectors and six organisations. So you kind of know these three things are probably going to help you get you more from where you are to where you say you want to be, but I'm just sensing there's not a willingness or there's not a buy in or you don't have the infrastructure, or it's not the right time, or you don't have the money or you don't have the right team in place, or the opposite. Are there any early warning signals that help you with that?
Well I suppose, listening to your question, it depends what you mean by adopt or take up the ideas. Because often we think of our work as being something that is a means to an end, we go in in order to get something to happen after we've left and I like to sort of call that out when sitting down together and sort of say, sometimes the means is the end. So the sheer fact of sitting down together is the thing that they need to do. I sat with a leadership team today that's dealing with the transition of an older founder who wants to sort of step back and the next generation come through, but nervousness about their capacity to replace his 45 years in this beautiful business and then they're, How do we navigate this transition? And while there's always talk about this sort of thing, that what we're going to do is and what we'll set up is and in future, what we'll do is actually the most of the value I was providing was in the dialogue that we were brokering around this table and so to your question then, what I'm looking for is the extent to which they have faith in the idea of engaging with me. And the corollary to that in the literature is the work on common factors for clinicians, which talks about the therapeutic alliance, and the so called placebo effect, which is the client's willingness to engage in the process that's being undertaken. That's a large part of the therapeutic outcomes, not all of it, but it's a large part of it. And so, as we observe in our professional field, that's why you can meet facilitators who just are charming and gorgeous and build rapport readily and instantly and with a wide range of people. And so they build themselves up a lovely business, even though they may not necessarily have a single technical framework that they've been schooled in or practiced in for years. They don't, they're just adorable and lovely and listen well and ask great questions and wonderful conversationalist and very responsive. And so that's what I'm looking for is their willingness and preparedness to lean in to the whole idea of me. Now for example, one of the clues is do they arrive on time to the session, or do they walk in late still on the phone, What are we doing, what? That's a clue, right? The extent to which how they're thinking about what this thing is that we're doing together. So I guess that's what I'm looking out for. We've all been doing it long enough now to know it's not about the rolling up the flip charts and all the intentions and I think you set yourself up all of us do, we as consultants, them as our clients that this idealised future that we're going to have, after this consulting engagement is over. I sort of over the years I've relaxed the idea of what success looks like by saying, Let's agree a couple of experiments we're going to run. And then at the end of that, we'll see how that is, if you need to change the way you guys are connecting on a weekly monthly fortnightly basis well, let's try it for fortnight. Let's get our diaries out now. Let's pick when's the next one, what day who's doing it, who's hosting it, what's the venue? And we cement in the first next one, knowing that there'll be a one after that, but we'll decide on that one after this one. Let's do this one first. It's been easier to help executives do new things because if you say, We're going to transform entirely how you work from this point forward, people go, No, you're not. And then you go, Okay, next month, we're going to try a different rhythm and routine. Who's prepared to give that a go for one round? You can't argue with that, right? Well you can I suppose but most people go, Yes alright. Even if they're determined to revert to the original format, after putting up with one, but often they go to the one and they go actually, generally, that was a little bit better. Sometimes it's better just because it's different. It's not that it in itself, it's a better format. They just like the fact that they've upended their routines a bit. That's what I'm looking for is their level of enthusiasm for the whole idea of having a me in the room and sitting together to do it all.
It's fascinating you've said that Marcus, because I've got no quant around this at all, it's all kind of my felt experience. I, almost every situation with a client talk about, if there's a willingness on your part, and a connection between you and I, that's 60% of the way. It's obviously made up numbers but that's been my felt experience, if they're willing to have me sit with them, sometimes ahead, sometimes behind, sometimes alongside and there's a willingness on their part to do some uncomfortable unknown work in whatever vein that might look like that usually is the precursor to probable progress.
Spot on and you can go to the literature on it with Bruce Wampold's work on common factors. I mean, it's there going, we looked at different modalities, therapists who do either the same thing, so they might have all been CBT therapists, or they might have all been emotion focused therapy therapists, or Gestalt, or Freudian psychoanalysts. And so they hold constant the modality, and then all that's changing is the therapist. And so they're looking for so called therapist effects, we might call them consultant effects, and that's why you might say, sadly, because it doesn't feel very pure, or you might say gladly, because it's delightfully accessible for people in the field, is that our capacity to have a chemistry with the client is a massive part of the extent to which we can be compelling. It's true for teachers, it's true of so many fields where, even in education, something magical happens when a great teacher lands in a classroom with willing students. And God knows we've tried, but we still really don't know what it is. You kind of go, how come Mrs. Martin who's music class, to give an example from my children's school, how come they just loved her, and they loved that class, and they lined up before the door opened, and they stayed after the bell went? What was it about her?
I wonder, I think there's a little bit of magic or X factor in that. And when you find out what the trick is, you kind of go, Oh.
Well, that's it and that's what Bruce Wampold tried to do is going I'm trying to work out what the X Factor is, and as clinical as they could make it it's this idea of therapeutic alliance, the placebo effect, which is the clients willingness to believe in the course of action that's being undertaken, the so called common factors because they're common to every approach, regardless of what the approach is.
Have you ever sacked a client?
Not in the way that ad agencies did. Did you remember when agencies went through this? I remember it I don't know, maybe it's probably gone on for a lot longer than when I came across it. But I came across it as a young marketer before I started this work, where an ad agency would, for the purposes of the PR of doing it, sack a client as a way of saying, We're so good we don't need this mid level client anymore. So we have resigned their work in order to pitch for their better quality competitors work. So to take a car brand, you might sack Ford publicly because you want to pitch for Mercedes or something and I've never done that. My father drummed into me the sheer good fortune of a client inviting you for the privilege of working inside their business and to receive the education that that experience will provide you and to have complete humility at all times. And it's a big deal for me in and our firm to be always appreciative of the invitations we are afforded. They don't need to invite us in and they do, they don't need to disclose their most intimate professional goings on and they do, it's an absolute privilege to do what we do, and that we get invited to do it never stops that being true and I've never and would never fire a client. Instead, we might use them as a vehicle if it were difficult, we might use them as a vehicle for our own professional development to say, what are we learning about our craft, through this experience of working with this challenging context, where we're finding some of our normal go-to plays aren't maybe working as well or we find ourselves in some frictional dialogue from time to time, and in the spirit of there's no such thing as a difficult group there's only an inflexible consultant and if you take that stance, then it leaves you open to go, How do I evolve how we turn up to this so that we can do a better job? Frankly I think they are a professional blessing because that's how you get to the edge of your development to go, Geez I've not worked with this one before how do I do this?
I'm so with you welcoming those disruptors, the Arnies as we used to call them showing up, they teach us more about ourselves than most other clients.
Yes absolutely. It's like someone in a craft right, ou take a craft you get fascinated by your medium. So if you're a woodturner and a piece of wood comes along that the lathe bites on and you go, Woah okay, what happened there? You don't go Stupid lathe, stupid wood. You go, Hang on a minute, what did I missed there? This is a different piece of wood, what have I done? Is the temperature different? Is the speed different? Did I hold it on the wrong angle? Have I worked with this type? They get curious about it, as would a cardiologist who's come across a patient where they go, Well, I actually did the normal course of treatment and it didn't work. Well, I wonder?And instead of going, Well stupid person they should have... instead they go Woah, what happened there? What have I missed? What's present in this case that I'm not appreciating, which is meaning my diagnosis is ignoring something that's important.
Hey Marcus, I would love to ask you about the firm that you've got. So the current business that you're in with a couple of people you named it 10,000 Hours, which I'm assuming is on the back of the often misquoted 10,000 hours from one of Gladwell's books, could you just explain a little bit, the short version of what that is and bust any myths that you constantly hear about this 10,000 hours rule?
Well the first thing that I didn't appreciate which I now do, is that a lot of people haven't heard of it. People in the field have heard of it, but anecdotally, 50% of people we come across go, I don't know what the 10,000 hour rule is. Now, in any workshop, there's always someone who does know about it, you always say well, who can answer Craig's question about what's with the 10,000 hour thing? And so there's normally someone who says yes, it was Malcolm Gladwell who wrote the book. As ever, like Daniel Goleman, making Mayer and Salovey's EQ work famous, Gladwell made Anders Ericsson's work famous, being the journalist who wrote about the academic's findings. And the very simple rule, it's not the number, the number is what caught on, because it's a lovely fat, round number, it's catchy. But his point was, and is always made when it's examined properly, that it's around about a number like that but what's important is the content of the hours, not the hours themselves. And so that the content of the hours is occupied with something called deliberate practice, which is working at your edge of competence in presence of an ability to get detailed and immediate corrective feedback with the capacity to grow and develop. So for people who like the idea of Csikszentmihalyi's Flow, it's just past that it's not fun, deliberate practices, and that's why you made a 12 year old who plays tennis, who's better than a 55 year old who's played Tuesday night for the last 40 years. Because the 12 year old is on their edge, every time they get on the court, the coach sets up a couple of cones, Right serve down the tee, serve out wide, put a kick serve on, I want you to serve to the back end. Whereas the Tuesday night guy or gal is just hitting balls, and that's why with lots more hours of tennis in the case of the Tuesday night club player, they get killed by a 12 year old who has been playing it for a quarter of the time, who's on the edge of their competence the entire way the whole time, that's the point. So we built the firm, my co founder Chris Maxwell and I, long story short, had dinner on around our 40th birthdays did the maths at the Meat and Wine Co down at Southbank there in Melbourne one night, turned the napkin over got the Sharpie marker out that was in our pocket from the day's workshop, and sort of figured out the maths together, and went, Oh wow maybe we've done our 10,000 hours. From there, we then registered the domain name and off we went so the firm is anchored around deliberate practice, meaning we've got to get the learning below the neck. It's a real problem in our industry, because it's very easy to understand conceptually our ideas, they're not intellectually sophisticated, but they are behaviorally tricky. And so we've got to get the learning beneath the cognition so that they're actually doing it, trying it, experimenting with it, and so on.
That's a great explanation thank you Marcus. And mate, I'm conscious of time, really grateful for that, I've really enjoyed the conversation. I don't really care what people say, I really enjoyed it right?
That's a great way to do a podcast Pete. I don't care what people think, I liked it.
I liked it this is all for me anyway. I'm going to finish if you don't mind with a couple of binary questions, and I'll just get your surprised response to that and then we'll close it off for this conversation.
And you wouldn't give me these in advance would you, you want the spontaneous response?
I do want the spontaneous response. So sunrise or sunset?
Sunrise. Oh, sunset with a drink, beautiful, but sunrise to be in front of the day. Sunrise.
Cool. So picking up on your point about learning below the neck, heart or gut?
Okay, a maxim that you say you like to live by, but don't.
You are what you eat. Which at the moment means I'm the bag of crisps and goat's cheese. That's terrible.
What's your favourite Aussie word?
Oh, favourite Aussie word. Look what's come in to my head, it's not my favourite word but I just thought of Beauty and Ripper. And I never say either of those words, but they just come into my head. But maybe, I think the idea in She'll be right mate, or No worries mate. It's not a word, it's a phrase. But I think what that connotes is a sense of agency about the future. There's something about the idea that says, You know what, whatever happens, we're going to handle this. And I think there's a useful agentic optimism in the idea of going, She'll be right mate, which means we're going to handle it, I quite like what that phrase is trying to do.
I love your explanation. And final question from me, a book that's changed your life?
Look, I know all your guests say, Oh but Pete so many so many. Probably, and I'm going to credit my beautiful co founder Chris Maxwell with this. He ripped into me years ago, he said, Mate, you're reading managerial rags, read proper academic literature where you can, and he really ripped into me one day, and I'll never forget the little sort of jibing that he gave me, but it pointed to a book and it's actually a textbook, Strategic Management and Organisational Dynamics. It's in it's 7th edition, again it's a Ralph Stacey weighty tome. But what it does, it's a very intelligent commentary on what's actually going on in organisations. So it looks at power, it looks at history, it looks at patterns of relating, and that really pointed me then to a raft of other literature that sort of came off the back of reading that one. And I'm really grateful frankly for Chris to get in my face and saying you got to read better stuff. And then that being where we went first, and from there went lots of other places as well.
Marcus, you've been an extremely generous-with-your-opinion guest, so I appreciate that.
That may not be a good thing, Pete, let's be clear.
I think it is, if you think about cognitive diversity and people with different views, I'm welcoming more of it. So really appreciate your time, your transparency, and also your humility, it's not that I didn't expect that, but that's come through for me, in the fact maybe, maybe this maybe that I'm just going to wait and see and play it out and she'll be right mate.
Well, to end on a little quick anecdote from a colleague we both enjoyed working with, Gavin. And if he's listening to this, he should know that this has stayed with me. He had done time working in the very early yeass of his career in acting, and he had something at a job interview where they put down a dolphin, like a photo of a dolphin, a doctor and an actor or something. And the question was who's the most important? And it was a trap, right? It was a trap for, to watch out for the hubris of an actor going, Oh but the arts are everything, that's what's important because if we don't have the arts then... and the whole point and the right answer was dolphin, right? Or bees, I think it was bees because we if don't have the bees, then we don't have the ecosystem, we don't have this and that all thing collapses. And it was designed to just say, For God's sake, have some humility, right? What you're doing here is, and I think we're very similar, what we do is is lovely, I think we're very lucky to do the kinds of things we do. And I think that professional humility of going, let's face it, every nurse, every first responder, they're all doing something every day that frankly, is far more important than anything we do. What we do is important and is useful, but keep the humility of where we professionally probably sit and some people might disagree with me on that, but I think it's grounding to keep that in mind as we go about doing what is wonderful work with fascinating people.
I agree. I've learned that lesson sometimes harshly over the years not to take myself so seriously.
Marcus it's been wonderful chatting to you. Thank you very much.
My pleasure. Thanks for having me, Pete, good fun.